Birds Behaving Badly - Noisy Miner

Noisy Miners, Manorina melanocephala, can be annoying because of their constant vocalizations, but their main problem is the impact they have on other birds. Both problems arise from a dramatic increase in their abundance resulting from the creation of favourable habitat by humans.

What are Noisy Miners?

Noisy Miners are large honeyeaters that live in groups, with each group strongly defending a communal territory. Noisy Miners also aggressively exclude most small birds from their territories, creating areas with a low diversity of small birds. Noisy Miners must find food (insects and nectar) within their territories all year round because they are a sedentary species. This means they thrive in environments that have year-round sources of nectar.

Why are they increasing?

Gardens in urban areas often have a high diversity of large-flowered plants, with abundant nectar, that are selected for their long flowering seasons. Noisy Miners are increasing in abundance in urban areas, and it has been suggested that the choice of these plants may play a role in this increase.

Is it just the flowers?

Gardeners might be able to reduce the dominance of Noisy Miners by planting small-flowered native plants with short flowering seasons. But nectar availability is only part of the Noisy Miner story. Noisy Miners also eat many insects and non-nectar carbohydrate sources associated with eucalypts. The presence of eucalypts may be a more important reason for Noisy Miner persistence than flowering shrubs.

What can be done?

Various research studies have shown that Noisy Miners dominate particularly strongly where there is good tree and grass cover, but not many understorey shrubs. This is partly because Noisy Miners favour such habitats, but also because there is limited shelter for small birds to escape attacks from Noisy Miners. Planting dense shrubs, particularly spiky shrubs, may be the best strategy for minimizing the negative effects of Noisy Miners and attracting small birds into urban gardens.

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